Was Mickelson Cheating

By Frank ThomasFebruary 4, 2010, 7:34 pm
Hi Frank,

It is early in the season but I have heard comments by sportscasters that according to the scores so
far this year, it appears that the groove rule is having no affect. You also hear many sportscasters reporting over and over of the effects of the  new groove rule. I was wondering what you might have to say about this and also what you think of the “controversy” regarding several PGA pros using the old Ping irons that are grandfathered in thus avoiding the new USGA groove rules.

Best Regards,

– Kenny, NY.


To answer your question about the effect the new groove rule has had on scoring or otherwise on the PGA Tour, let me say it is too early to tell. I have been following this issue for 2 years and you can read my opinion about this groove rule change.

There are many golf writers, announcers and others checking how performance on Tour will be affected by the new “Condition of Competition”. This question is one that must eventually be answered, if for no other reason than to justify the disruption the new groove rule change has had on the industry, the 35 million golfers – who have not contributed to the perceived problem – and the game itself.

There is some confusion about the implementation of the rule itself. It has been reported that the R&A measurements and those of USGA don’t seem to be in sync and that Ernie Els had to have a new set of clubs hand delivered to him at the Sony event after he believed his clubs conformed based on a ruling by the R&A but was then contradicted by a USGA measurement.

There will always be teething problems with hastily adopted standards and procedures. This one is especially problematic and embarrassing because of the confusion it has caused leading to slanderous comments about cheating.

Phil Mickelson did not cheat by using square grooves in his Ping Eye 2 wedge as Scott McCarron has suggested. These clubs have been grandfathered forever, no matter what changes are made to rules on grooves. The reason for this is that after a disagreement and the initial phases of a lawsuit on how to make the groove measurement, Ping agreed to conform with the USGA’s interpretation if the USGA would grandfather those Ping Eye 2 clubs made between 1985 and March 1990. The R&A did not grandfather these clubs.

The real question is, does Phil have any measureable advantage over his fellow competitors because of his equipment? The answer is no. These Ping Eye 2 clubs have square grooves which minutely violate the existing specification. The differences in performance between his clubs and others is so small, and the number of times he is in a position where it may help are so few that his clubs are not a factor. His skill is what is going to make the difference

We mortals are still allowed to use the old groove configuration (which has been in effect since 1984) until 2024, even though clubs with these grooves will not be manufactured after December 31, 2010. From a marketing perspective, I don’t know how many golfers will buy any piece of equipment which is advertised or well known as having a potentially detrimental effect on their game. I think the villains in this play are not the actors but the confused playwrights.

Let’s hope it will iron itself out and that the change will eventually be justified.

Kenny, you and many others will be kept informed about this groovy issue.

– Frank

Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.